Wow. What a day we had yesterday. We don't even know where to start, so we will just do a quick conference roundup of the action and what this means for certain schools.
SEC - We've got to start with the craziness in Atlanta. I happened to be watching the Alabama/Mississippi State game live Friday night when the Tornado ripped through the downtown area, causing major damage to the Georgia Dome. It truly was a crazy sight. From what I saw, the game was at a stop and all of a sudden a real loud noise rocked the dome and fans in the stands began to flee upwards towards the exits. Nobody had any idea what was going on and it was quite scary as a catwalk and camera bay began to sway back and forth. Don't ask me why, but I sat through the delay riveted. You probably know by now, but the night-cap between Kentucky and Georgia had to be postponed until Saturday morning. So the winner of that game would have to play two games Saturday. All action for the rest of the tournament would be moved to Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Georgia Tech. Since the venue only holds 9,100 and over 30,ooo tickets had been sold for the semis and finals, no tickets would be honored. Therefore, the only people allowed to watch the SEC Tournament in person were families of the players and coaches, the bands, and the cheerleaders.
Georgia 60 Kentucky 56 OT - The sixth seed in the SEC East won this battle, which is exactly what these teams didn't need, thanks to a game winning three by an unlikely hero, Zac Swansey. It was only his second field goal of the game and he went for broke, hitting a fadeaway triple that eliminated the Wildcats. The finish was not without controversy as a no-call on a brilliant move by Billy Gillispie on the final out of bounds play was not called. The UK coach left the court following the officials into the tunnel. Now Georgia had to move on to play Mississippi State at 8:30 PM. How much would they have left?
Arkansas 92 #4 Tennessee 91 - This could be a damaging loss for Tennessee when it comes to grabbing a #1 seed. With Kansas and Texas rolling and meeting in the Big 12 final, one of these two teams could take that #1 seed. Arkansas in the meantime has locked themselves in with this win. Steven Hill hit his only bucket of the night with 5.3 seconds left to win it for the Razorbacks. Charles Thomas was sensational with 24 and 10 rebounds off the bench for the victors. Chris Lofton's 25 and Tyler Smith's 24 weren't enough for the Vols.
Georgia 64 Mississippi State 60 - How about them Dawgs? Talk about resiliant. After playing an OT barn-burner a few hours earlier, Dennis Felton's club somehow managed enough to knock off a rested Mississippi State club. Sundiata Gaines' 20 led the way for UGA, but he fouled out with five minutes left. Even with missing several free throws late, the Bulldogs pulled it out and now meet Arkansas with a chance to get to the big dance at 16-16. "To win two games in one day at the SEC tournament is not easy," said Gaines, who held an ice bag on his sore right hip but insisted "I'm not tired."
Big 12 - Consider this: Say Texas beats Kansas in the Big 12 title game. They will be the Big 12 regular season and tournament champions. They will have a resume that sports three wins over Oklahoma, two over Kansas, and wins over UCLA and Tennessee. How can they be denied the #1 seed, especially with Tennessee losing in the semis of the SEC. Kansas, if they win, also looks like a team that deserves a #1 seed. They'd sit at 31-3, champions of the Big 12 regular season and tournament, a league with the #2 RPI, and sport wins over Texas, USC, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas A&M (2), and Baylor. What a battle it should be Sunday in Kansas City.
Texas 77 Oklahoma 49 - The Longhorns blitzed OU in the second half 41-20 and cruised into their third straight Big 12 title game. A.J. Abrams broke out of his mini-slump with 24 points, hitting seven three pointers. D.J. Augustin added 17.
Kansas 77 Texas A&M 71 - This was the game everyone had been waiting for from Brandon Rush. With Darrell Arthur once again in foul trouble, Rush decided it was his time to be the first option. He hit five triples on his way to a career high 28. They needed it, as KU was outrebounded by a game A&M club.
ACC - The final everyone wanted to see (sorry Dukie V) won't be happening. Give both Virginia Tech and Clemson a lot of credit for not rolling over and playing dead against the powers that be in the ACC (UNC and Duke). Even though they lost, Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg made an impassioned plea for his team to get the 5th ACC bid. "Anyone who watched that game that knows anything about basketball, if you don't think this team is one of the top 65 teams in the country, you're certifiably insane," Greenberg said. "Because I don't know who else could come into this environment, basically play a road game, and play those guys the way we just played them. The only thing we didn't do is win the game." Too bad their best wins are two over Maryland, who won't be in the tournament.
#1 North Carolina 68 Virginia Tech 66 - It was a loose ball that ended up in Tyler Hansbrough's hands. With 0.8 seconds left, he buried a jumper that propelled the Tar Heels to a two point win. He was great again with 26 and nine boards, but Virginia Tech controlled this game throughout. They just forgot to finish. They forced 17 UNC turnovers and shot more free throws than the Heels. But they came up just short against the #1 team in the nation.
Clemson 78 #7 Duke 74 - We've said it all year abou Duke; live by the three, die by the three. Yesterday, they died by it. 6-26. Clemson meanwhile ended a 22 game losing streak to the Blue Devils and will play for their first ACC Tournament title since 1962. Trevor Booker killed Duke in the post with 18 as the Tigers were the aggressor all game long. Duke's hopes for a one seed came crashing down to earth.
Pac-10 - While the final was a terrific game, the team that gets the most discussion when it comes to the bubble is Arizona State. How can this even be a conversation? To us, this is a no-brainer. They are in. They beat Arizona twice, Stanford, USC, and Xavier. Not to mention they at a minimum would have gone to OT with USC Thursday had it not been for the bad officiating the Pac-10 has been known for of late. Oregon and Arizona are sweating as well.
#2 UCLA 67 #11 Stanford 64 - These two heavyweights are so evenly matched, yet the Bruins seem to have the Cardinal number. When it comes down to winning time, Darren Collison is as good of a closer as there is. He had 28 points and led UCLA in their decisive 22-8 second half run. "I felt real confident," he said. "They had a hard time stopping the pick-and-roll. That was a big key for us, so we kept going to it." The Bruins have locked up the #1 seed out West and will be tough to beat starting in Anaheim and going through Phoenix. Stanford should be a #2 seed.
Big East - We think West Virginia answered any naysayers with their performance in New York. Syracuse is out. Villanova is squarely on the bubble, but the team that was the most impressive was Pittsburgh. As the #7 seed, the won four games in four days to capture the Big East crown. Georgetown was great for two games and look primed for a deep tourney run. This league should get no less than seven bids. In other Big East news, Providence coach Tim Welsh was fired.
Pittsburgh 74 #9 Georgetown 65 - A balanced attack and a domination of the glass (39-25) propelled the Panthers to the Big East championship. Jamie Dixon only went seven deep, but all seven contributed. Ronald Ramon led Pitt with 17 and Sam Young added 16. Gilbert Brown came off the bench with 12, Dejuan Blair had a double double of 10 and 10, and while Levance Fields struggle with his shot (2-10, 5-13 from the line), he had 10 points, six assists, and five rebounds while shutting down Hoya guard Jonathan Wallace. "We are one of those teams that does whatever it takes, we always have," Fields said. "We take pride in our defense and none of the teams we played here got 70 points and this was the only team that shot over 40 percent. We outrebounded them by 12. But at the end of the day the biggest thing is we got the win."
Big Ten - Not a good weekend for the Big Ten. People have been dogging this league all year as being soft, and this tournament has done nothing to dispel that. Indiana, playing like a bunch of sulking dogs since Kelvin Sampson left, was upset by Minnesota. Purdue, failed to show up in a glorified home game in Indianapolis, and lost to a bad Illinois team. Ohio State, playing for its tournament lives, laid an egg against Michigan State in a must win. Is anyone interested in watching a Wisconsin/Illinois final? We know we aren't.
#6 Wisconsin 65 #19 Michigan State 63 - This game was a microcosm of both team's seasons. The Badgers struggled to score most of the game, and in the end, used a big run keyed from their defense to stun the Spartans. Michigan State blew a 12 point second half lead and had four players foul out. Drew Neitzel's 26 weren't enough to save Tom Izzo's club. Michael Flowers' steal and lay-in with the score tied at 63 put the Badgers ahead. The Spartans had two chances to tie it, but Kalin Lucas wildly turned the ball over and Neitzel's three at the buzzer was off.
Illinois 54 Minnesota 50 - There would be no Blake Hoffarber magic in this one for the Gophers. Bruce Weber's chance at redemption for a sub-.500 season continued as the Illini advanced to the finals. Shawn Pruitt led Illinois with 16 in a game that you couldn't have paid us to watch. I'm sure CBS was thrilled that this wasn't a rematch of Purdue and Indiana, two ranked teams and hated rivals.
Other Scores of Note
#3 Memphis 77 Tulsa 51 - Boy, that Conference USA Tournament certainly prepared Memphis for the big dance. They literally didn't play one team who is even NIT worthy. They will be the #1 in the South.
UNLV 79 #23 BYU 61 - Looks like the Mountain West will be getting at least two bids. Can they get three with New Mexico?
Temple 69 St. Joseph's 64 - Props to Fran Dunphy for getting Temple back to the NCAA Tournament in his first year. Temple's win takes away a spot from another bubble team.